Mumbai: Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, which has consistently faced adverse criticism for squeezing its vendors as well as for its labour policies, has offered to pay $530 million in bonuses to its employees in the US.
The company, which is facing mounting pressure to increase wages and improve working conditions, will pay bonuses quarterly, rather than on an annual basis.
Around 813,759 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club employees of Wal-Mart Stores will be eligible for the payments Wal-Mart said in a statement.
Wal-Mart, the world's biggest private sector employer with 1.8 million staff, including 1.3 million in the US, said it plans to recognise 13,400 employees who have worked at the stores for more than 20 years, with eligible workers getting an extra week's pay.
Wal-Mart will also provide unspecified cash awards to staff that have given "outstanding'' customer service, it said.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, employs 1.8 million workers, including 1.3 million in the U.S. It will begin paying the bonuses quarterly instead of on an annual basis, its practice in the past several years.
The company is paying the bonuses under the "Associates Out in Front'' programme, aimed at improving employee relations and recognising service and merit.
"The initiatives unveiled today were heavily guided by associate feedback generated during town hall meetings,'' Wal- Mart said.
Wal-Mart has previously defended its employment policies, saying the company creates jobs and has reduced health-care costs for Americans by selling prescription drugs at discounts.
The retailer, which has opposed attempts to unionise its employees, is pushing for the US government to provide medical coverage for all citizens. Wal-Mart has joined labor unions in calling for an overhaul that would guarantee universal coverage by 2012.
Wal-Mart reported a rise in its fourth-quarter profit at $3.94 billion. Sales climbed 11 per cent to $98.1 billion.